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User Journal

Journal: Product Review: Seagate Personal Cloud 1

Journal by mcgrew

Around the first of the year all three working computers were just about stuffed full, so I thought of sticking a spare drive in the Linux box, when the Linux box died from a hardware problem. It's too old to spend time and money on, so its drive is going in the XP box (which is, of course, not on the network; except sneakernet). I decided to break down and buy an external hard drive. I found what I was looking for in the "Seagate Personal Cloud". And here I thought the definition of "the cloud" was someone else's server!

I ordered it the beginning of January, not noticing that it was a preorder; it wasn't released until late March. I got it right before April.

I was annoyed with its lack of documentation -- it had a tiny pamphlet full of pictures and icons and very few words. Whoever put that pamphlet together must beleive the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words". Tell me, if a picture is worth a thousand words, convey that thought in pictures. I don't think it can be done.

I did find a good manual on the internet. For what I wanted, I really didn't need a manual, but since I'm a nerd I wanted to understand everything about the thing. Before looking for a manual I plugged it all up, and Windows 7 had no problem connecting with it. It takes a few minutes to boot; it isn't really simply a drive, it must have an operating system and network software, because it looks to the W7 notebook to be another file server. Its only connections are a jack for the power cord and a network jack.

The model I got has three terrabytes. I moved all the data from the two working computers (using a thumb drive to move data from XP) and the "cloud" was still empty. Streaming audio and video from it is flawless; I'm completely satisfied with it, it's a fine piece of hardware.

However, it WON'T do what is advertised to do, which is to be able to get to your data from anywhere. In order to do that, Seagate has a "software as a service" thing where you can connect to a computer from anywhere, but only the computer and its internal drives, NOT the "personal cloud". And they want ten bucks a month for it.

I downloaded the Android app, and I could see and copy files that were on my notebook to my phone, but I couldn't play music stored there on it. I uninstalled the crap. "Software as a service" is IMO evil in the first place, but to carge a monthly fee to use a piece of crap software like this is an insult. Barnum must have been right.

If you're just looking for an external hard drive, like I was, it's a good solution. If you want what they're advertising, you ain't gettin' it. The Seagate Personal Cloud's name is a lie, as is its advertising.

User Journal

Journal: We've been spelling it wrong for over a quarter century 8

Journal by mcgrew

I'm surprised that this hasn't been addressed by the academic communities. Someone with a degree in English or linguistics or something like that should have though of this decades ago.

This word (actually more than one word) has various spellings, and I've probably used all of them at one time or another. The word is email, or eMail, or e-mail, or some other variation. They're all wrong.

It's a contraction of "electronic mail" and as such should be spelled e'mail. The same with e'books and other e'words.

So why hasn't someone with a PhD in English pointed this out to me? I have no formal collegiate training in this field. It's a mystery to me.

User Journal

Journal: Are printed books' days numbered? 4

Journal by mcgrew

In his 1951 short story The Fun They Had, Isaac Asimov has a boy who finds something really weird in the attic -- a printed book. In this future, all reading was done on screens.

When e'books* like the Nook and Kindle came out, there were always women sitting outside the building on break on a nice spring day reading their Nooks and Kindles. It looked like the future to me, Asimov's story come true. I prefer printed books, but thought that it was because I'm old, and was thirty before I read anything but TV and movie credits on a screen.

And then I started writing books. My youngest daughter Patty is going to school at Cincinnati University (as a proud dad I have to add that she's Phi Beta Kappa and working full time! I'm not just proud, I'm in awe of her) and when she came home on break and I handed her a hardbound copy of Nobots she said "My dad wrote a book! And it's a REAL book!"

So somehow, even young people like Patty value printed books over e'books.

My audience is mostly nerds, since few non-nerds know of me or my writing, so I figured that the free e'book would far surpass sales of the printed books. Instead, few people are downloading the e'books. More download the PDFs, and more people buy the printed books than PDFs and ebooks combined.

Most people just read the HTML online, maybe that's a testament to my m4d sk1llz at HTML (yeah, right).

Five years ago I was convinced ink was on the way out, but there's a book that was printed long before the first computer was turned on that says "the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated".

* I'll write a short story about the weird spelling shortly.

User Journal

Journal: Where's my damned tablet? 11

Journal by mcgrew

I'd like to know why in the hell nobody is selling a tablet, or maybe an app for existing tablets, that will let me watch over the air TV on it?

All the necessary hardware is there. Wi-fi and bluetooth are radios. Some cell pones can pick up FM music stations, and have been able to do so and have done so for years.

The FM radio band sits between channels six and seven on the VHF television channels. If it can hear radio, it can see TV.

The technology is there, why isn't the commercial device to be found? Offer a tablet I can watch TV without the internet and I'll buy one. Maybe two.

User Journal

Journal: Triplanetary 1

Journal by mcgrew

I've uploaded a new book to mcgrewbooks.com. Edgar E. Smith was a well known science fiction writer known as "the father of space opera", and Doctor Smith was a food engineer in his other life. The novel I've uploaded is Triplanetary, first published in serial form in Amazing Stories in 1934.

Some of the dialogue is a bit juvenile, but it would make a great movie.

User Journal

Journal: An Accidental Book 1

Journal by mcgrew

I've read books accidentally, meaning to read a single chapter and winding up reading it in one setting, but I've never started writing one accidentally.

Until now.

Tired of editing Random Scribblings and Voyage to Earth and Other Stories (Formerly titled "Mars Bars"), I thought I'd look for another science fiction novel in the public domain a little less ancient than The Time Machine to add to my web site.

I didn't find one, so decided to just make a book of public domain short stories by the 20th century greats. I found a LOT, and started assembling a book. Somehow, I wound up adding commentary and thought "Hey! New book!"

Then I discovered that one of the short stories wasn't so short -- in fact, it was a full blown novel. So for the last several days I've been formatting it to put on my web site. E.E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary will be posted in a few days.

I'll let you know when it's there. I guess I'm working on three books again. The collection I'm working on is tentatively titled "Yesterday's Tomorrow".

User Journal

Journal: Is Microsoft Sirius? 1

Journal by mcgrew

I had to laugh when I ran across this article.

"Cortana's UI now expresses 18 different emotions. Siri remains detached and aloof."

Yes, Microsoft is apparently the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation with its " Genuine People Personalities". So when are they going to make that "Marvin" interface?

User Journal

Journal: Amnesia 4

Journal by mcgrew

If slashdot still hasn't fixed the "fine in preview, fucked in submit" bug, there's a readable version here.

Amnesia
        He awoke wondering where he was... on a medic. Why was... oh, hell, why was he being held down? And then the big question hit him â" Who am I?
        And who, besides the medic itself, which was only a robot, had imprisoned him? And why?
        There was a tube leading into his arm... was he in a hospital? It smelled like a hospital.
        The medic beeped, and said âoecondition improved, now stable.â
        He must have had some kind of accident, but he couldnâ(TM)t remember his own name, let alone how he wound up in a hospital.
        âoeComputer!â he said, hoping the hospital computer could shed some light. It was apparently not paying attention, because it ignored him. He lay there strapped to the robotic table for what seemed like forever when the medic again beeped and spoke. âoeCondition improved, now fair.â
        âoeComputer!â
        No answer.
        Damn. âoeMedic!â
        No answer.
        Another eternity passed, and the medic reported âoeCondition good, patient released.â The straps came loose and he sat up on the medic, waiting for a nurse or doctor that never showed up. Didnâ(TM)t someone have paperwork when a patient was released?
        He decided to look around the hospital to find someone and tell them that he shouldnâ(TM)t have been released, that he had no memory. He used the rest room and went searching for help.
        This, he thought, was the strangest thing... this hospital seemed to have no doctors, no nurses, no administrative staff, nobody. Not even any patients. He walked down hall after hall, and found nothing but locked doors and more hallways.
        He started to panic, and muscle memory reached his hand into his pocket for a phone. There was none there.
        That panicked him. Why didnâ(TM)t he think of it before? It could have told him at least who he was, if not where he was and why.
        He started running, down first one hallway then another, until he collapsed in exhaustion and anguish. He sat there in the hallway, head in his hands, sobbing softly.
        Quite a while later he finally came to his senses, sort of. He got up and decided to just walk around, looking for... anything, really, but especially people. Where was everyone? It would be nice if he could find a sandwich, too; he was starting to get a little hungry. That added to his already numerous worries.
        He found no exits, no unlocked doors, no people, no sandwiches. It was hard enough to keep his fear below panic levels, but then what was obviously some sort of alarm went off. Was the building on fire? He stopped, with no idea what to do.
        He looked up â" werenâ(TM)t there skylights showing stars earlier? But his memory was impaired, after all, not able to remember his name or anything before waking up on the medic.
        He heard the first sounds that didnâ(TM)t come from robots that heâ(TM)d heard since awakening, and it scared him even more â" the sound of hail. Perhaps there were skylights, but were now shuttered.
        At this point he was aware that the alarm was almost certainly a tornado warning, and he couldnâ(TM)t find the stairway! Maybe this building didnâ(TM)t even have a basement, but who in their right mind would build a structure in a tornado zone without one? But without a stairwell, it might as well not have a basement. He huddled in a doorway waiting for the tornado to destroy him and the building.
        The sounds of hail stopped, the siren stopped, and yes, there were skylights; the shutters opened then, showing stars once again. Odd that the storm had started and ended so fast. The shutters must have closed before the clouds rolled in.
        He started to continue his fruitless search.
        A robot wheeled past, and he had an idea. The robot would certainly lead him to something.
        It did. Down a hallway heâ(TM)d not yet explored and probably had run past more than once in his earlier panic was a large door that stood wide open, the automatic pocket doors recessed. Inside was a huge room filled with tables and chairs, but still no sign of humanity at all. The robot heâ(TM)d followed dragged another robot away. Puzzling.
        At least he had somewhere to sit besides the floor. He sat down at one of the many tables to rest, thinking heâ(TM)d have to figure out how to find his way back before continuing his search.
        He just couldnâ(TM)t stop wondering what the hell was going on. Was he being studied in some sort of weird experiment? Was he a prisoner by design, or by accident? Was he a criminal? Did he have a family?
        Without even thinking he started praying out loud, âoeOh, Lord, please help me...â
        A mechanical voice chimed in. âoeCan I help you, sir?â
        He looked up at the robot. âoeYes,â he said, âoehow can I get out of this building?â
        âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, sir, but that is not in my database. Can I get you something to drink?â
        âoeYes, cold water, but first, where am I?â
        âoeThis is the commons area, sir. Would you like a menu?â Without waiting for an answer, the video screen displayed a menu.
        âoeYes, Iâ(TM)ll have a cheeseburger, brogs, and a caffeine shike.â
        âoeYes, sir,â it said, and started to roll away.
        âoeWait!â the man said. âoeWhat is this the commons of?â
        âoeThat information is not in my database.â
        âoeCan you tell me what this building is?â
        âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, sir, but that information is not in my database. Is there anything else, sir, or should I fetch your order?â
        âoeNo, go on.â It rolled off. He put his elbow on the table and rested his head in his hand.
        The robot came back shortly with his water and shike and rolled away again.
        âoeWhat the hell is going on?â he wondered aloud, again.
        The robot came back in with his food and wheeled away. He ate, still not able to figure out how to examine his prison and still find his way back to this âoecommonsâ. At least he had food and drink now, which relieved him greatly and made exploration of this building far less, yet still, important.
        Then he thought: A commons. A common area. People should show up here, perhaps he should just wait for someone to show up?
        Several hours later and the skylight still showed stars. Was he in Antarctica? Or was he... Yes, that explained everything. He was on a space ship, but why? Where was it going? Where was the captain?
        Was he the captain? Or... a horrifying thought came to him. Was he a pirate who had killed the captain and thrown the body out the airlock?
        His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of humanity â" boots walking down the hallway, and cautious whispering voices.
        He looked around the doorway and saw ten heavily armed, armored, and helmeted men.
        âoeOh shit,â he thought. He was captain, but didnâ(TM)t even recognize his own boat, let alone how to run it, and now there were pirates who would surely murder him and steal the ship and whatever cargo it was carrying. He cowered in a corner, wishing for something to defend himself with.
        They came in, weapons drawn, with the men in the back facing the other way and backing in. The man in front lowered his weapon and raised his face shield. âoeJerry? Christ, man, what the hell is going on?â
        âoeMy name is Jerry? Are you sure? I donâ(TM)t know who I am!â
        âoeJesus, Jerry, Iâ(TM)ve known you for years, youâ(TM)re Jerry Smith. I was scared shitless for you, what the hell happened? Did you get attacked by pirates?â
        âoeI... I donâ(TM)t think so. Iâ(TM)d be dead if they had. The first thing I remember is waking up on a medic wondering who I was and where I was and why I was on a medic. I wandered around for hours, I donâ(TM)t think anybody else is here.â
        âoeOkay, Joe, check the pilot room. Rob, would you do an engine inspection?â
        âoeSure thing, boss.â
        âoeJerry, where are your phone and tablet?â
        He shook his head. âoeNo idea, but I was sure wishing I had them.â
        They took Jerry to Earth with them while another man piloted Jerryâ(TM)s ship there.
        He did eventually get his memory back after a lot of therapy. His phone had been in his captainâ(TM)s quarters, and he had been doing inspection in machine storage when a can of something that had been improperly stacked by a malfunctioning robot had fallen, hitting him in the head and knocking him cold. A medic had taken him to sick bay, leaving the tablet laying on the floor, effectively locking him out of everything. Clearly, some policies, at least, would have to be changed.
        Jerry never captained another ship. In fact, he spent the rest of his life on Earth and never entered space again.

User Journal

Journal: Well, crap... 8

Journal by mcgrew

Patty emailed me and solved the "why isn't anybody buying the Amazon ebook" question -- according to her, it's nearly impossible. She says they won't take a credit or debit card, you have to either have an Amazon gift card or that Amazon Prime crap.

So I don't know what to do. I'd just pull it and put it on the site for free like the other two books, but that would hardly be fair to the two people who jumped through Amazon's hoops.

Suggestions are very welcome.

User Journal

Journal: Stupid Tourist! 2

Journal by mcgrew

At an impasse with Voyage to Earth, I hacked out another short story today. Unfortunately, I wrote it in Open Office and slashdot refuses to preview properly; in preview it looks fine but when posted the smart quotes turn to garbage. So rather than pasting it here, I'll have to send you to somewhere less stupid.

User Journal

Journal: The Time Machine

Journal by mcgrew

I just added another title to my web site: H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. I hadn't realized that book was 8000 words short of being a novel.

It only took a day or so to fix up, but then it isn't a fat book like Huckleberry Finn, which has so many illustrations that I'm going to have to upgrade my space on the server (as if this hobby doesn't already cost too much). The Time Machine only has three pictures.

Speaking of Huck, like I mentioned, I hadn't read it in decades. I discovered on reading it that Sergy's kid did NOT, in fact, coin the word "Google". The word "Googling" is in chapter 29: "The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that's googling out buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed and gazed down sorrowful on them new-comers like it give him the stomach-ache in his very heart to think there could be such frauds and rascals in the world."

Do you think that they'd have named it something else if they knew that "googling" had to do with lack of speed? I found it rather amusing.

You've probably noticed that the posted books I didn't wrire are referenced in the ones I did. I wish I could post Asimov's The End of Eternity.

I should get back to Mars Bars and Random Scribblings...

User Journal

Journal: A New Old Book

Journal by mcgrew

About six months or so ago I decided to take a break from writing and do some reading, so I pulled an Asimov collection from the shelf. After half a dozen or so stories, I thought I'd read something that wasn't science fiction. Huckleberry Finn was on my mind, and since my copy was somehow lost I decided to just read it on the web; I remembered it being a really good book, though I hadn't read it in decades.

All the online versions sucked; archive.org, gutenberg.org, the .EDUs, it didn't matter. All had extraneous bullshit and looked thrown together carelessly.

So I thought I'd assemble one that didn't suck; one with borders, a book font, proper justification, all the illustrations by the original illustrator, and put there with thought rather than <p><img src="illustration.jpg"><p>.

I see why the rest looked hastily thrown together; it was a hell of a lot of work. I've been at it full time for a couple of weeks, and although I've posted it at my web site there are still a few bugs.

If you decide to read some Twain and see some bugs, please let me know.

The book isn't really about Huck. It was about Jim. It was an abolitionist book about the horrors of slavery, written before the Civil War.

Folks were sure different back then.

User Journal

Journal: Who could possibly defend taxis from Uber-like companies? 3

Journal by mi

Suppose for a second, a scientific breakthrough comes up with a pill or a procedure, which prevents humans from ever falling sick. Will we be seriously listening to people arguing, it should not be made available, because its introduction would put doctors and hospitals out of business?

User Journal

Journal: Good Bye, Google. 6

Journal by mcgrew

For the last several years I've noticed Google's search results getting worse and worse as time went by. Ten years ago, typing the title of a work returned that work usually in the first spot. They now seem to completely ignore the "title" meta tags.

They've gradually reduced the number of things you could do to get to the document you're searching for. It used to be that if you searched for "no dog is a cat", all the search results would have that phrase in it, with documents having that as a title listed first. Now, searching for that phrase returns any page with any of those words. What damned good is that, if that exact phrase is what you're looking for? Apparently, Google now ignores quote marks.

I discovered this morning that that's not all it ignores now. Google has deteriorated to the point that the old Infoseek that Google took the search crown from was better.

It ignores not only quotes, but all punctuation and spaces. I searched for "Mars, Ho!" (including the quotes) and the first ten pages had results about people and things named "marsho". WHAT THE GOD DAMNED FUCK??? Why in the hell do the idiots think I put that comma, space, and exclamation point in for?

NASA has a "Mars, Ho!" page. Guess what? Google doesn't return it. At all. Google gives me millions of pages, none of which match my search criteria. I can almost see it not finding my insignifigant site, but a NASA page doesn't show up?

That's just pathetic.

What's even more pathetic is that its quality has deteriorated so much that Bing and Yahoo are now better at returning what you're actually searching for. Both NASA's "Mars, Ho!" page and mine are on the first page of both Bing and Yahoo's sites.

It was wrong of Firefox to just change peoples' default search, but I now see why they did it. They figured out before I did that Google jumped the shark quite a while ago and now is next to worthless.

User Journal

Journal: Fourteen: The Final Chapter 1

Journal by mcgrew

It's that time of year again. The time of year when everyone and their dog waxes nostalgic about all the shit nobody cares about from the year past, and stupidly predicts the next year in the grim knowledge that when the next New Year comes along nobody will remember that the dumbass predicted a bunch of foolish shit that turned out to be complete and utter balderdash. I might as well, too. Just like I did last year (yes, a lot of this was pasted from last year's final chapter).

Well, this one's starting out a little differently than previous ones. Is the whole damned internet down? It's Dec 17 right now and I was going to register the copyright for Mars, Ho! then work on his year's "Final Chapter". The copyright office is undergoing "emergency maintenance" and slashdot says "Slashdot is presently in offline mode. Only the front page and story pages linked from the front page are available in this mode. Please try again later" after Firefox warned me "It's a trap!"

As usual, first: the yearly index:

Journals:
the Paxil Diaries
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

2014
A Pleasant Vacation
A Pretty Good Friday
A Yank Back to the Past
Get off Wierd Al's Lawn!
The Coldest Night
Scientist says white is black
I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas

Sci-Fi:
Nobots
Mars, Ho!
Moroned Off Vesta
Time flies like an error
Watch your language, young man!
Grommler
Some links go to Soylent, since they don't have slashdot's patented text mangler when you format something for a book and copy & paste to the journal.

Last years' stupid predictions:
100% accuracy!
Someone will die. Not necessarily anybody I know...
SETI will find no sign of intelligent life. Not even on Earth.
The Pirate Party won't make inroads in the US. I hope I'm wrong about that one.
US politicians will continue to be wholly owned by the corporations.
I'll still be a nerd.
You'll still be a nerd.
technophobic fashionista jocks will troll slashdot.
Slashdot will be rife with dupes.
Many FPs will be poorly edited.
I'll retire and/or die. Nailed it! I retired at the end of February.

I'll just keep the same list this year, except that the "retire or die" one (shudder) and replace it with "I'll publish Random Scribblings". That prediction may be a bit iffy.

Happy New Year! Ready for another trip around the sun?

Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe

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